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Isaias, Downgraded To Tropical Storm, Nears Florida

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Tropical storm Isaias is bringing 65-mile-per-hour winds and heavy rains to Florida's east coast today. After battering the Bahamas as a hurricane, Isaias was downgraded to a tropical storm last night. It's now on a track that keeps it just offshore Florida's Atlantic Coast. NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami.

Good morning.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Florida was preparing for a hurricane. How did Isaias lose its strength?

ALLEN: Well, I guess after it left the Bahamas, it ran into a lot of dry air and wind shear that took a lot of its steam out of it, lot of the power away. The storm's pretty ragged and amorphous at this point. You really don't see a well-defined eye. But it is expected to remain a tropical storm well into next week as it tracks up the whole East Coast.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How much of a threat does Isaias pose for Florida at this point?

ALLEN: I think officials are most concerned about possible flooding from storm surge and heavy rain. The storm slowed considerably as it approached Florida, and slow storms can drop more rain. The National Hurricane Center says some areas can see as much as six inches in some isolated areas. Isaias' winds aren't a significant threat to buildings, though, in Florida 'cause the building code here requires structures to be able to withstand speeds far higher than that. But a bigger concern is, you know, power outages. Here's what Governor Ron DeSantis has to say.

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RON DESANTIS: You are going to see power outages. You know, that's certainly - a 70-mile-an-hour wind will be enough to take down trees and limbs. That obviously interacts with power lines, and so that will happen, and people should be prepared for that.

ALLEN: And DeSantis says the main utility for South Florida has 10,000 workers prepositioned to restore power when they can do so. But with COVID-19, it's been difficult to get out-of-state crews to come into the state, so the utility's been warning that it may take longer than usual to get power restored.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, Greg, have evacuations been ordered?

ALLEN: Well, they did order - you know, put a voluntary evacuation in place in Palm Beach County for people who live in mobile homes and in areas likely to flood. There's some shelters open there and some other counties up the coast. Officials are asking residents, though, just to use those shelters as a last resort. You know, with the threat of COVID-19, FEMA issued guidelines for operating shelters safely. Officials are leaving space between family groups. Face masks are being required for anyone who's there. And people who have any symptoms of the virus will be isolated in special areas like classrooms if they're in schools. And with the pandemic, though, officials are asking residents only to use the shelters if they've got no other alternatives possible.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, Greg, North Carolina ordered mandatory evacuations for vacationers on barrier islands and in coastal areas. How long before Isaias gets there?

ALLEN: Well, you know, as I said, the storm is moving pretty slowly now. It's going to stay very close to shore up the Florida and Georgia coast today and tomorrow. The current forecast has the storm making landfall along the South Carolina coast on Tuesday, but then it's going to continue through Virginia all the way to New York and New England as a tropical storm. So it's possible you can see flooding and power outages in all of those states.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Greg Allen in Miami.

Thank you very much.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.